Right now, we're creating enough data every day to fill 10 million Blu-Ray discs. While that statistic is useful for answering trivia questions, it doesn't mean much else.
That's because data on its own is meaningless; it's the information and insights you can glean from data that make it worthwhile. And the tools to help you do that fall under the umbrella of Business Intelligence (BI).
Related Article: Get Smart: What is Business Intelligence and Why Do You Need It?
Business intelligence tools put data to work, grabbing it from multiple sources and creating a number crunching hub which spits out insights in visual form. People have always collected insights on their businesses (local store owners always knew what they needed to stock), but these days software solutions can help you do it more quickly and more accurately. The video below gives a brief overview of business intelligence:
A good BI solution offers a number of advantages for business owners. One key benefit is the decentralization of information. Instead of having information in silos for different business areas (marketing, sales, production and so on), all the areas can feed data into your business intelligence solution so that everyone involved gets a more holistic view of what's happening inside the business.
There are often crossovers between business areas; using this kind of solution makes it easier to identify them. A Panorama case study shows how one company used their Necto solution to quickly analyze and report on data originating from a wide range of sources and to easily share information across the company, saving time and improving insights.
According to Desk.com in Demystifying Data: How Small Businesses Can Leverage Big Data for Business Growth:
"Companies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, five percent more productive and six percent more profitable than their competitors."
Eventually, your competitors are going to discover how powerful BI solutions are and use them to take business away from you unless you implement these tools effectively first.
The right tool also helps you generate reports on key metrics for the people who need to have that information. Custom reporting is a key business intelligence feature. Many solutions let individual users create their own dashboards and reports, drawing from the overall data pool.